Porzingis, Mudiay and Hezonja are the international rookies to watch during 2015-16 NBA Season

Kristaps Porzingis New York KnicksWe’re not too deep into the latest NBA season, in fact we’re barely a week in but the naysayers have already started biting their tongues.

A few rookies from overseas have started showing that they can run with the big boys. Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia, Mario Hezonja of Croatia and Emmanuel Mudiay from the Congo will have all eyes on them this season and for good reason.

Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks

Selected fourth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, the home town crowd didn’t give the Latvian the warmest of ovations. However, after nearly putting up a double-double in his home debut along with a thrilling highlight reel steal, spin and slam, New Yorkers have started to come around on the lanky Latvian.


He currently sits fourth among rookies for PPG with 12.0 and second among rooks with 7.4 rebounds per hame. Despite his poor showing from beyond the arc, Porzingis will have a game where he hits 6 threes (or more)… if he can keep from being goaded into silly fouls.

It’s early and Porzingis has the capacity to adjust. He’s already had a couple highlight-worthy putback dunks over the likes of Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“He’s figuring some things out pretty quickly.” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said about Porzingis.

While he’s not the smoking gun for Rookie of the Year, Porzingis’ aggression, smooth jump shot, work ethic and the fact that he’s seven-freaking-three, it’s hard to overlook him.

Mario Hezonja – Orlando Magic

Right after Porzingis was another top European prospect. Selected fifth overall by the Magic in the 2015 Draft, Mario Hezonja had one of the best NBA Summer League showings of any rookie averaging 13.0 PPG.

Prior to the NBA, Hezonja helped lead Barcelona in 2014 to a Spanish League championship the year before and has already started making an impact in the Association.


He hasn’t shown much in the regular season just yet, in part because the Magic have been competitive, but rest assured Hezonja will be ready when his number is called. The young gun isn’t shy by any means, in fact, he has a surplus of confidence (that borders on arrogance), but an NBA player that isn’t supremely confident in themselves will fade out of the league.

Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies

And it isn’t all about rookies this year. This could finally be the year that Marc Gasol one ups his brother. Pau has the championships along with a few more all-star nods, but Marc has a shot at that MVP trophy the family has been seeing for so long.

Given the makeup of the Grizzlies in the tough Western Conference this could be big Spanish center’s finest year.

It’s a long shot but Gasol is coming off the best season of his career and is only trending upward. He finished 2014-15 with 17.4 PPG and 7.8 RPG. The Grizzlies were bounced in the second round by Golden State but Gasol managed to up his averages putting up nearly 20 PPG and 11.6 RPG in that series.

Emmanuel Mudiay – Denver Nuggets


We’ve discussed Mudiay’s upside previously and given the state of the Denver Nuggets, we’ll likely get to see the full scale of Mudiay’s skill set as well as a bunch of turnovers. The young guard was impressive in China, but it’s a whole new ballgame stateside.

Playing 12 games with the Guangdong Foshan club, Mudiay averaged 18 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals. The guard may have taken one shot every two minutes (15.3 FGA in 31.5 minutes), but he did so at a respectable rate (47.8 FG% and 34.2% from three).

With Ty Lawson in Houston, Mudiay will have the ball in his hands a lot. There’s no better way of learning how to be a point guard than getting a ton of minutes and handling the play making the majority of the time. Mudiay is a quick learner so look for a steady improvement as the season moves on.

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